London – the holy grail of retailers everywhere


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The recent news that Inditex are bringing their Stradivarius concept to London has been greeted with rapturous applause this month. On top of that, rumours abound that US teen fashion brand Aeropostale and South Korean 8Seconds are both on the hunt for locations has piled on even more excitement. J Crew’s recent forage into The Big Smoke has proved hugely successful, and has added enormous gravitas to London’s reputation as being at the epicentre of fashion retail.

Of course for a long time it was our brands migrating and helping the UK develop a reputation leading the way in the industry. All those quintessentially British brands like Mulberry, Ted Baker and Karen Millen have flourished worldwide, and created a buzz putting the UK firmly on the fashion map. And we are increasingly seen as cool internationally, with the success of the Olympics, the latest series of 24 being shot here, and the stylish young royals – not least the inimitable Kate – really flying the flag for how this small island has a huge presence hard to ignore on the world stage.

So what impact will the influx of new fashion names have on our existing high street? Inevitably it will force our retailers to up the ante, improving what they do from many different perspectives. These sparkly new names will most definitely impact the footprint and landscape of how we do things, with so many businesses vying for the same space in the market – even once the honeymoon period and novelty factor of a new place to shop dies down.

Competition will be fiercer than ever, with price points challenged and promotions maximised. Visual merchandising will need to be even more eye-catching and marketing more inspired to keep the tills ringing. Customer service and loyalty events will be required to ensure that the theatrical experience of shopping lures in the punters. Collections will need continual newness, with more mid-season drops within the season’s stories. And the merchandising role will be imperative to the success of businesses as they keep a closer eye on sales patterns to really maximise opportunities brought about by the intensified market. Every department within our head offices will be working better and faster. What an incredible post-recessionary time this will be for our industry!

But what advice can we offer to the brands before they sign on the line here in London, where the streets aren’t always paved with gold. Rents and rates are expensive so if you get it wrong then it’s a catastrophe financially. Testing the market is the best way to go, with pop-up shops the ideal vehicle. Quality will be under scrutiny – if it’s wrong at opening, you may never get that customer through the doors again. And the sizing can vary massively between countries, so retailers will have to ensure they are in-line with the UK market, and that the blocks are the same as we know here.

How exciting that the UK – especially the capital – is the holy grail for fashion brands. With a bigger retail mix than ever before, London really is the jewel in the crown for retail empires across the globe.

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